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Nolini by the Mother

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Sri Nolini Kanta Gupta

Reminiscences about The Mother

The first time I heard about the Mother was shortly after our arrival here. It was Sri Aurobindo himself who told us about a French lady from Paris who was a great initiate. She was desirous of establishing personal contact with Sri Aurobindo. That the Great Soul whom she meant was no other than Sri Aurobindo would be evidenced by a sign: she would be sending him something that he might recognise. That something was Sri Aurobindo's own symbol - in the form of a diagram, known as Solomon's Seal. Needless to add, after this proof of identity, steps were taken to facilitate her coming. Monsieur Paul Richard was at that time much interested in spiritual thought and practice and he could find an opportunity for coming here: he wanted to find out if he could get elected as one of the Representatives of French India in the French Parliament and he stood as a candidate for election.

The first time he came here for canvassing, he was alone. The Mother accompanied him the next time. To all outward appearances they arrived here to canvass support for the elections, although M. Richard did not in the end get very many votes. But this provided the occasion for the Mother to meet Sri Aurobindo and gather a few trusted friends and devotees.

When it first came to be bruited about that a Great Lady like this was to come and live close to us, we were faced with a problem: how should we behave? Should there be a change in our manners? For we had been accustomed to a bohemian sort of life, we dressed and talked, slept and ate and moved about in a free unfettered style, in a manner that would not quite pass in civilised society. Nevertheless, it was finally agreed that we should stick as far as possible to our old ways even under the new circumstances, for why should we permit our freedom and ease to be compromised or lost? This indeed is the way in which the arrogance and ignorance of man assert the glory of his individuality!

The Mother arrived. She would meet Sri Aurobindo in company with the rest of us at our afternoon sessions. She spoke very little. We were out most of the time, but also dropped in occasionally. When it was proposed to bring out the Arya she took charge of the necessary arrangements. She wrote out in her own hand the list of subscribers, maintained the accounts herself: perhaps those papers might be still available. And afterwards, it was she herself who helped M. Richard in his translation of the writings of Sri Aurobindo into French for the French edition of the Arya. The ground floor of Dupleix House was used as the stack room and the office was on the ground floor of the Guest House. The Mother was the chief executive in sole charge. Once every week all of us used to call at her residence accompanied by Sri Aurobindo and had our dinner together. On those occasions the Mother used to cook one or two dishes with her own hands. Afterwards too, when she came back for good, the same arrangement continued at the Bayoud House. About this time, she had also formed a small group with a few young men.
A third line of her work, connected with business and trade, also began at nearly the same time. Just as today we have among us men of business who are devotees of the Mother and who act under her protection and guidance, similarly in that period also there appeared as if in seed-state this particular line of activity. Our Sauren founded the Aryan Stores, the object being to bring in some money: we were very hard up in those days-not that we are particularly affluent now, but still.. .The Mother kept up correspondence with Sauren in connection with these business matters even after she left here for Japan.

Let me speak in a very general way of an aspect of her teaching that concerns the first principles of the art of living.

The core of this lies in elevating our life to a cleaner level, and the first and most important need is to put each thing in its place. The training that the Mother has throughout been giving us - I am not here referring to the side of spiritual practice but to the daily routine of our ordinary life - is precisely this business of putting our things in order. We do not always notice how very disorderly we are: our belongings and household effects are in a mess, our actions are haphazard, and in our inner life we are as disorderly as in our outer life, or even more. Indeed it is because we are so disordered within that there is such disorder in our outer life.

The Mother taught us to use our things with care, but there was more to it than this. She uses things not merely with care but with love and affection. For, to her, material things are not simply inanimate objects, not mere lifeless implements. They are endowed with a life of their own, even a consciousness of their own, and each thing has its own individuality and character.

As I told you in the beginning, the Mother did not appear to us, the older people, as the Mother at the outset; she came to us first in this garb of Beauty. We received her as a friend and companion, as one very close to ourselves, first, because Sri Aurobindo himself received her like that, and secondly because of her qualities. Now that we are on this subject of her qualities, although it is not necessary for a child to proclaim the virtues of his mother, I cannot here refrain from telling you about another point in her teaching. This concerns something deeper. The first time Sri Aurobindo happened to describe her qualities, he said he had never seen anywhere a self-surrender so absolute and unreserved. He had added a comment that perhaps it was only women who were capable of giving themselves so entirely and with such sovereign ease. This implies a complete obliteration of the past, erasing it with its virtues and faults. The Mother has referred to this in one of her Prayers and Meditations. When she came here, she gave herself up to the Lord, Sri Aurobindo, with the candid simplicity of a child, after erasing from herself all her past, all her spiritual attainments, all the riches of her consciousness. Like a new-born babe, she felt she possessed nothing, she was to learn everything right from the start, as if she had known or heard about nothing.

In the beginning, Sri Aurobindo would refer to the Mother quite distinctly as Mira. For some time afterwards (this may have extended over a period of years) we could notice that he stopped at the sound of M and uttered the full name Mira as if after a slight hesitation. To us it looked rather queer at the time, but later we came to know the reason. Sri Aurobindo's lips were on the verge of saying "Mother"; but we had yet to get ready, so he ended with Mira instead of saying Mother. No one knows for certain on which particular date at what auspicious moment, the word "Mother" was uttered by the lips of Sri Aurobindo. But that was a divine moment in unrecorded time, a moment of destiny in the history of man and earth; for it was at this supreme moment that the Mother was established on this material earth, in the external consciousness of man.

Nolini Kanta Gupta

Reference unknown - Found on the Net in "Jyoti", the online magazine of the Sri Aurobindo Center (East-West Cultural Center) of Los Angeles, USA. May be no longer available.

The works of Nolini can generally be ordered at SABDA - Pondicherry - India.
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